Out with the old, in with the new: WFD celebrates its newest fire engine

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The new Engine 4 rolls-in to the WFD Headquarters on Market Street during a ceremony on Tuesday. Photo by Christina Haley.
The new Engine 4 rolls into the WFD Headquarters on Market Street during a ceremony Tuesday. Photos by Christina Haley.

An afternoon downpour didn’t stop a group of firefighters and their families from rolling in the Wilmington Fire Department’s newest fire engine Tuesday.

With a group of kids riding in the front of Wilmington’s new addition to the squad – a 2015 Pierce Velocity Pumper Engine – firefighters pushed the sides and back of the truck as it rolled into the space that previously housed the old Engine 4 at WFD headquarters at 801 Market St., downtown. The effort was part of a “roll-in” ceremony to celebrate their newest engine.

Roll-in ceremonies are something the fire department has held for just a couple of years, but they’ve been part of firefighter service tradition, according to WFD Battalion Chief David Hines.

“It’s a ceremony so that these firefighters can roll out the old [and] roll in the new…it gives them a sense of pride,” Hines said about the ceremony, adding that it’s also a celebration for their families and community, along with a way to show taxpayers how their money is being spent.

The City of Wilmington purchased the new fire engine for $570,000, with an additional $30,000 on equipment to outfit it, Hines said.

Two girls ride with a firefighter in Wilmington's newest fire engine.
Two girls get into the truck with a firefighter to catch a ride in Wilmington’s newest fire engine.

The new pumper engine has several notable features, including a two-way hands-free communications system, side roll and frontal impact airbags, enclosed compartment storage for ground ladders, a 500-gallon water tank, a 20-gallon foam tank and more than 200 cubic feet of storage space.

Of these features, there are several unique to the pumper and not included among other engines on the fleet. The pumper engine has added storage space on the outside of the truck, including side tank storage that gives firefighters easy access to their air tanks. The new engine also has its hose storage in the back of the truck, a new feature that keeps the hoses all in one place in the rear, which aids in firefighting tactics.

Pumper engines go to fires with water on board and usually provide an initial attack on fires, Hines said.

“The more quickly you can get there, the quicker you can put the fire out whenever it’s still in a smaller state, before it gets really big. That’s what these trucks are designed to do – get there quick and put the fire out,” Hines said. “A large percentage of the time, we can put the fire out fairly quickly because we have good distribution of our station and our equipment.”

The 500 gallons of water stored on the fire truck can last about 3 to 5 minutes. But that’s enough time to put out a smaller fire or have time for another truck to link up to a water supply.

The larger fires are few and far between, Hines said. The city’s fire department averages about 13,000 calls a year with about 50 major fires. Firefighters have an average response time of about 4 and a half minutes.

Wilmington Fire Department 1
The old Engine 4 gets pushed out of fire department headquarters. It will serve as a reserve engine for the fleet.

The last fire engine to roll in to the fire department was in October 2015, about the time when the new Station 3 located off Cinema Drive opened for use, Hines said. The engine there is similar to the new truck that rolled into fire department headquarters Tuesday.

Since 2012, Hines said the city has been working with WFD to replace older engines with a newer model at least once a year. A new fire engine is also included in the recently approved 2016-2017 city budget. The fire department’s goal is to replace older fire engines with a new engine about 15 years. The old Engine 4 will be used as a reserve engine, which are older engines that serve when other engines are undergoing maintenance.